2013 Philadelphia Phillies Preview
After a rough 2012 season Philadelphia looks to bounce back and compete with Atlanta and Washington for the NL East crown.
The Philadelphia Phillies finished 2012 at an even .500 going 81-81 and missing out on the playoffs for the first time in several years. The ball club suffered from lack of run production and rocky starts from veterans Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. For the ball club to turn things around in 2013, they will need consistent starts from all three of their top pitchers, and bounce back years from Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. They lost Shane Victorino and Juan Pierre from their outfield which could hurt them offensively, and they will have to hope that offseason acquisitions Delmon Young and Ben Revere will be able to gel with the club and give them the production that they need to keep pace with the Braves and the Nationals in what is likely to be a very competitive NL East.
2012 was not a kind year for the Phillies’ pitching staff. While Halladay did go 11-8, he finished the season with a 4.49 ERA, not something the club was looking for from a guy who had been lights out the past two seasons. They will need him to return to form so that he can be a solid number two guy behind ace Cole Hamels. Hamels (17-6, 3.05) shouldered the bourdon of keeping the team afloat last season, and they got a fantastic performance out of him, striking out 216 batters and pitched the team deep into ball games. Hamels was rewarded with a nice contract extension for his efforts, and he looks to be a lock for the Phillies’ rotation for many years to come.
Cliff Lee (6-9, 3.16) had a rough go in 2012, suffering from a lack of offensive production that kept him fighting for the six wins that he did get. Lee suffered from injuries last season that kept him from getting his first win until July 4 th, and he bested Greg Maddux for the longest losing streak (13) by a former Cy Young winner. If Lee can return to form this season, the Phillies will have a solid one, two, three punch at the top of their rotation. If he cannot, they are likely to finish at .500 again and miss out on the playoffs as both Atlanta and Washington have rotations that will pitch circles around the Phillies if the top three guys can’t perform.
John Lannan (4-1, 4.13 in six starts with Washington) and Kyle Kendrick (11-12, 3.90) will round out the Phillies’ rotation and both men have the potential to be quality starters for the ball club. Lannan will look to make his mark on the ball club and hope that a change of venue will allow him to develop into a star, something he didn’t seem capable of accomplishing with the Nationals. Kendrick started the 2012 season in the bullpen for the Phillies, but after Vance Worley went down with an injury, he was called upon to start and did a commendable job in his new role. The Phillies were impressed enough to allow Kendrick the chance to pitch in their rotation this spring, and he looks to be a lock as the club’s fifth starter once the season gets rolling.
The Phillies will return their big offseason acquisition from last year Jonathan Papelbon to close out their games in 2013. Papelbon saved 38 games last season, keeping his streak of at least 30 saves alive which dates back to his rookie season in 2006. With the signing of Mike Adams this offseason to be his set-up man, the Phillies now have a very strong 8 th and 9 th inning combination that should shut the door on any game that has the team up by 2 or 3 runs. The rest of the bullpen should be solid as well with Antonio Bastardo, Philippe Aumont, Jeremy Horst and Justin De Fratus all expected to earn spots in the relief corps.
The Phillies will need better offensive production all around if they plan to keep pace with Atlanta and Washington this season, and the guy who needs to step up the most is first baseman Ryan Howard. Last season, Howard posted a .219 batting average and hit 14 homers in an injury-shortened season that saw him appear in just 71 games. With his injuries behind him, there is little reason to believe that he won’t bounce back this season but if he struggles the Phillies are going to have a hard time replacing his bat in their line-up, especially considering one of their best hitters last season, catcher Carlos Ruiz won’t be with the team on Opening Day.
Ruiz is going to have to serve a 25 game suspension after testing positive for Adderall and will be unable to join his team until at least April 28 th. Ruiz is eligible to begin a rehab assignment on April 23 rd and has been allowed to participate in Spring Training and Grapefruit League games this spring so it is unlikely that he will be very rusty when he comes back, but the Phillies are going to miss his bat during what could be a very important first month of their season.
Chase Utley will also have to bounce back from injuries this year after spending nearly half of the 2012 season on the disabled list. Utley hit .256 with 11 homers and 45 RBIs in 83 games but his knees are beginning to fail him and has already been held out of games this spring to give him additional rest time. Utley is 34 and has missed 40 or more games in the last three seasons, so whether or not he can return to his pre-injury form remains to be seen.
The Phillies should get a slight jolt in their line-up from new outfielders Delmon Young (.267, 18 homers, 74 RBIs) and Ben Revere (.294, 0, 32). Revere will bring speed to the line-up, he stole 40 bases for the Twins last season and had 13 doubles and 6 triples for the club; and Young will bring power. Unfortunately, Young likely won’t be ready to join the club until mid-to-late April due to an ankle injury, and he has not seen any Spring Training games so a lengthy rehab stint in the minors could be necessary to get him ready for competition once the season gets under way.
Third baseman Michael Young, shortstop Jimmy Rollins and left fielder Dominic Brown round out the Phillies offense, and Young could be another key addition to the club from this offseason. Young hit .277 last season for the Rangers and comes to the National League for the first time after spending his first 12 years in Texas and will make his return to third base this year after spending some time as a utility player in 2011 and 2012. At 36-years old, it will be tough for Young to play every day, but the Phillies are confident that he can be there man at third this season, and they hope that he can still hit for some power to ease the pain of the loss of production expected from Howard and Utley this season.
The Phillies season will live and die by their starting pitching as offensively, the ball club is going to be up and down given the uncertainty of the amount of games that Utley, Howard and both Delmon and Michael Young will play. If Hamels, Halladay and Lee are solid this season, the Phillies should be able to muster up enough offense to keep them afloat in the top-heavy NL Eastern Division. If they don’t, the Phillies are going to struggle again to reach the .500 mark. It is my belief that they will pitch quite well, and that both Lannan and Kendrick have good seasons too. I think the offense is going to be rough, with Howard and Utley likely missing significant time mid-season, but they should be able to keep the team near the top of the division and finish with 88 to 90 wins, good enough for 2 nd place in the division and a playoff berth as a Wild Card team.
By Robert Gonzalez